Pump Prices, Subsidies, Rockets & Feathers Markets

(Consumer protection can only come from more renewables)

Blog #87, CaliforniaGeo 7-31-22

Pump prices-

Gas station prices have always been closely watched by Americans.  In times of stability, there are still some complaints about gasoline prices.  In times of price increases, many citizens are enraged, and missles spraying that rage are fired in all directions.  Often these go directly  to the top of the U.S. federal government as if thats where prices are set. They are set by the oil majors.  Neither can our government cause those oil majors to bring more crude to refineries.

A companion situation to citizen irritability appears when there are supply shortages or longer line-ups at the pump.  Americans demand instant gratification in many segments of our society, perhaps none more so than effortless (and affordable) single occupant vehicle transportation.  Most have never considered the societies of Europe, who have had prices per gallon multiple dollars higher than ours for decades.

The future begins now-

There are occasional bouts of humor about pump prices, but mostly complaints.  This resembles a saying about the weather where nobody is doing anything about it.  We’re going to get far more complaints about weather in a climate-altered future that’s already showing up.  I write this piece from 3,500 feet up in the northern Sierra of California, and we are in the middle of a multi-day 100°+ series of highs for a location with a summer design temp of 93° (no more than 2.5% of the time will it break 93).  Like so many other places, the ship called “Normalcy” sailed long ago.  Carbon emissions are becoming the barometer that is sending our global thermometer ever higher.

Historic energy policies-

There is a tug-of-war in energy policy that’s been going on for a long time.  VP Cheney took it behind closed doors with fossil company leaders in the earliest days of the George W. Bush Administration.  The evidence of climate change, powered by rising temperatures from growing carbon emissions has increased plenty since then. 

Last summer, a Zoom video emerged with an industry lobbyist explaining a decades-long campaign to create doubt and stoke denial of global warming among the public.  Much  of the effort he credited to multiple “Astro-Turf“ organizations (the opposite of grass roots citizens) that strategized similar to the tobacco industry’s campaign to sow misinformation while marketing smoking to youth and minority populations.  

The energy lobby evidently felt it important to influence the federal government to protect its preferences in resource policy and regulation, even though historic tax subsidies remained large, in contrast to growing calls for reductions in carbon emissions.  This resembles a second similarity with government regulation and tax policy for the tobacco industry.  Smoking became more regulated and discouraged, yet subsidies for tobacco growers continue.

Government help to renewable energy sources has improved since the graphic above was built, but it still has a long way to go.  Renewable electricity and EV transportation are the biggest current threats to the fossil industry whose size and profitablility need no taxpayer help.

Recent news-    =================================    Recent news-



Exxon, Chevron post blockbuster profits on oil price boom

As soaring pump prices rattled consumers, the U.S. energy giants saw their second-quarter earnings nearly triple


By Aaron Gregg

July 29, 2022 at 5:01 p.m. EDT

“…On Friday, Exxon reported net income of $17.9 billion for the three months ended June 31 compared with $4.7 billion in the year ago period. Revenue came in at $111 billion, a 68 percent premium over the same period. Chevron, meanwhile, earned $11.6 billion, versus $3.1 billion in 2021. Sales hit $64 billion, up 80 percent from a year ago.”



How Joe Manchin’s change of heart could revive the U.S. solar industry

An industry on the skids is suddenly positioned for a major resurgence

By Evan Halper 

July 30, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

“…But the wager in Dalton [Georgia] by Qcells North America may have paid off with an ambitious climate package now on a path to President Biden’s desk. The bill, negotiated in part by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), would deliver billions of dollars in tax and other incentives to U.S. solar manufacturers, equipping them with government support on a scale of those China used to corner the market.”


Policy shifts-

Just last week a recently controversial democratic senator seemed to change his course that would boost major legislation that he had formerly blocked for months.  The bill that resulted from secret negotiations with the democratic caucus leaders would resemble the so-called “Build Back Better” policy recommendation of President Biden—on a budget.  There are a number of other elements in the bill that have been popular with the majority of the public for years, but all previous legislation had been blocked by the opposition, who sees a “win” for the public as a win only for their political opponents—and that will not stand.  In this era of climate defense needs, that’s a remarkably opposite action considering time is running out for action.

Solar PV to generate electricity has no moving parts, has vanquished coal, and is closing in on a defeat of gas-fired generation of electricity.  It also runs low cost circles around nuclear, which takes too long, costs too much, and has long-term residual toxicity.  All three of these non-renewables also require large amounts of water to run their steam turbines—and that is not helpful where new droughts minimize supplies of water that vanishes through evaporation.

Generation of electricity by solar does not threaten liquid refined fuels for internal combustion engines in cars and trucks—with the exception that if more electric vehicles appear, the fossil giants will begin to lose their biggest market—transportation.  Smaller electric aircraft already exist and are well along to certification for commercial operation.  Electric heavy equipment is already on the market.  So, of course renewable electricity threatens the fossil giants.  That’s been part of the reason they’ve mis-informed us for so long and have held sway in Congress to protect their businesses from clean air regulations and the Paris carbon reduction they oppose.

The fossil businesses are smart enough to never let an emergency go to waste.  As Putin  invaded Ukraine, crude and refined fuel shipments increased to Europe, shrinking U.S. supplies.  With the public’s freak-out that prices are climbing because of that war, retail prices go “Up Like A Rocket,” but “Down Like a Feather” as featured by the Washington Post earlier this year.

At right, the red line of retail price is the “rocket” that descends like a “feather” despite the drop in the yellow line representing lowered crude prices.

For those citizens who scream at higher gas pump prices, they have a more stable transporation cost future if they’ll take it.  Renewables will always be free.  Electric vehicles can be charged at home either by highly regulated residential electricity or one’s own solar PV rooftop panels.  In this case, you’re collecting (or storing) your transportation fuel at home.  No foreign war or domestic refiner can inflate, embargo, or refuse delivery of the energy you can make for free.  That means increased stability in your price of transportation cost.  This is a virtuous circle for citizens in that less liquid fuel burned equals reduced global warming and more stable climate.


Electrification can expand in other ways to preserve comfort at home and reduce global warming.  Geothermal (ground source) heat pumps use less energy per heating or cooling unit delivered than anything else.  They outlast all fossil-based HVAC equipment and standard air conditioners.  And they tee-up the following questions:

Why use a 3,000° flame to heat a room to 72° and hot water to 120°?  Why voluntarily fill your kitchen with emissions known to increase asthma and other respiratory complications?  Why do either of these things when they both hasten the climate change that is cooking all of us in the summer of 2022?


—Bill Martin